Guidance about programme cost weightings in the 16 to 19 funding formula for 6 sector subject areas from 2020 to 2021 academic year.


Programme cost weightings (PCWs) are one element of the 16 to 19 funding formula used to calculate 16 to 19 funding allocations. PCWs recognise that some subjects cost more to deliver.

Each academic year, we publish a list of the current PCWs for each sector subject area in the funding rates and formula guidance.

From academic year 2020 to 2021, we increased PCW factors for 6 subject areas. The 6 subject area tier 2 codes and descriptions are as follows:

  • 2.1 Science
  • 4.1 Engineering
  • 4.2 Manufacturing Technologies
  • 4.3 Transportation Operations and Maintenance
  • 5.2 Building and Construction
  • 7.4 Hospitality and Catering


On 31 August 2019, the Chancellor announced £400m extra funding for 16 to 19 education. This included £120 million to help deliver expensive but crucial subjects. This part of the additional funding has 2 elements: an increase to PCWs for some subjects and the introduction of the High Value Courses Premium.

Changes to PCWs

PCWs provide an uplift for subjects that cost more to deliver. There are currently 4 PCW factors used in the 16 to 19 funding formula:

  • Base (1)
  • Medium (1.2)
  • High (1.3)
  • Specialist (1.75)

From 2020 to 2021 academic year, we have introduced 2 new PCW factors:

  • Low (1.1)
  • Very High (1.4)

The PCW factor for study programmes with their primary activity in:

  • ‘Transportation Operations and Maintenance’, ‘Building and Construction’ and ‘Hospitality and Catering’ will increase from Medium (1.2) to High (1.3)
  • ‘Engineering’ and ‘Manufacturing Technologies’ will increase from High (1.3) to Very High (1.4)

We have taken a different approach for increasing the PCW factor for Science as the majority of students are on A level study programmes.

A level programmes do not have a single core aim to indicate the primary activity of a study programme as they have several similarly sized aims. As a result, the Low (1.1) PCW factor will apply to any study programme with a vocational core aim in Science or a study programme consisting of 2 or more Science A levels.

Why we changed the PCWs

We based the PCW factor increases for these 6 subject areas on evidence and feedback from providers which suggested they are insufficiently weighted at present.

At the last review of PCWs in 2013, providers told us that the current PCW factors for these subject areas do not reflect their higher costs.

Feedback from providers in the review of PCW in 2013 has been backed by recent research by the Gatsby Foundation in 2018 and Association of Colleges in 2019. The Association of Colleges published a summary of the findings from this research on its website.

The government also commissioned research in 2018 that examined the income and expenditure of further education college departments delivering different subjects. The research found evidence of the high delivery costs of these 6 subject areas compared against the costs of other subject areas to deliver. It also found that departments in some high cost subject areas were less likely to meet the full costs of delivery including contributing to the running costs of the college.

Review of PCWs

The additional funding for colleges and school sixth forms to support them to deliver expensive subjects is a new approach for 2020 to 2021. The government will work closely with the sector to evaluate and review this approach to make sure it is delivering improved outcomes for young people and is supporting colleges and sixth forms to offer valuable technical and vocational courses.

More specifically, the government is reviewing PCWs as indicated in the now closed T Level funding consultation. The increases to the PCW factors for the 6 subject areas for 2020 to 2021 academic year are interim changes based on the available evidence in advance of the PCWs review due to report in 2021.

This review will gather new evidence and examine the PCW rates across all subject areas to determine the PCW factors for 2022 to 2023 academic year onwards. It could result in further adjustments (increases or decreases) to the PCW factors for all subject areas, including those that we have increased for 2020 to 2021 academic year. We aim to consult with providers during 2021 and there will be an opportunity for providers to input their views as part of the review process.

Any queries regarding the PCW changes and how these will affect the calculations for the 16 to 19 funding allocations in 2021 to 2022 academic year should be made to:

ESFA enquiries

Contact form…

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Any queries relating to the PCW review should be made to [email protected]

Published 4 November 2019
Last updated 21 January 2021 + show all updates

  1. We have extended this guidance to cover academic year 2021 to 2022.

  2. First published.